Prescription Medication: the New DUI

With millions of Americans get medication for a variety of ailments each year; it is no surprise that many of these individuals are operating motor vehicles while impaired by these same drugs.  The mentality surrounding driving while impaired by prescription drugs is not the same as that of someone who drinks or uses illicit drugs before deciding to drive.  In fact, many people across the country take their “pills” before erranding or reporting to work without a thought to how these drugs affect their system.  What many do not know is that being impaired under the law; especially in Arizona, is the same regardless of what is causing the impairment.

Prescription Drugs and Car Accidents

According to a report conducted by the Public Health Law Research program, drivers who have been involved in fatal crashes have increasingly been found to have prescription drugs in their system.  The study showed that between 1993 and 2010; the number of drivers who have found to have three or more drugs in their system at the time of a fatal accident nearly doubled.  By 2010, it was found that close to 1 in 5 drivers involved in fatal crashes were using multiple drugs.

What may be even more alarming is the passivity with which Americans are increasingly being issued prescription medications without giving a thought as to their potential side effects and their impact on the patient’s daily life.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse; even small amounts of certain drugs can cause significant impairment of motor skills, balance, spatial orientation, reaction time and judgment.  Any impairment of one of these skills can make for very serious consequences behind the wheel of a car.

Driving while impaired in Arizona – Drugged Driving

Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country; and they apply equally to driving while impaired by illicit or legal drugs.  In 2014, residents of the Phoenix area get remind of the dangers of driving under the influence of prescription medication; when a heavily medicated truck driver caused a fatal accident that took the life of one, and injured five others.

According to police reports after the accident, the driver of the truck get a field sobriety test after the responding officer noticed that he had slurred speech, drooping eyelids, bloodshot eyes and a low, raspy voice.  After being unable to maintain balance and showing signs of impairment, the driver was tested for drug impairment. According to reports of the accident, the truck driver informed the officer that he took prescription muscle relaxants for back and shoulder pain, and did not recall the events of the accident as he fell asleep at the wheel of his truck.


If you get injuries in a car accident involving prescription medication; the professionals at the Thompson Law Firm, PLLC can help.  With the rising number of American adults prescribe a variety of medication, an increase in reckless driving is inevitable.  Hopefully, educational efforts to dissuade people from driving while on prescription medication will help keep Arizonans safe; but it is important for all drivers to remain cautious when on Arizona’s roadways.

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